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Buying hones in Japan

BlueDun

Well-Known Member
Gentlemen,

this is BlueDun reporting straight from Tokyo. I was here on business trip for a week now. It's a funny place for the average European. I mean, where the heck in the world would you find toilets that you have to reboot before you take a poop but on the other hand no freaking ass is speaking English - not even in the most high tech computer stores. Let alone in the hone shop. Yes, of course I went
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:rolleyes: and it was just amazing. Imagine five floors and one basement crammed with natural hones up to the roof! I strongly advise anybody with too much money and a hone hording disorder to stay faaaaar away from that place.
At this point I want to express my great thanks and appreciation to JimR who really helped my out big time. I contacted him some time before I went to Japan and he offered me his help right away. That's one of the great things about such forums - you have friends all over the world. I chatted with him some days before I visited the shop and he helped me narrow down my search area. When I was in the shop I called him and he took the time to patiently translate to the Japanese guy. I spent several hours in the shop. First, the guy picked hones from all over his shop and I could make a first selection, mainly based on price levels. Then I could actually try them (I did bring a razor) until I found one that we both considered worth a good choice for razors - awesome! So I ended up with a fine Japanese finisher and three naguras. I guess I know what I will do over Christmas break ;)
Don't ask me at this point what kind of stone I bought. I really don't know. I will shoot some pictures and Jim will try to identify by the Kanji markings. And of course I'll share all the pictures I took with you guys as soon as I'm back home and find the time to upload.

Cheers
BlueDun
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
Great! I'm not sure you've scheduled an actual meeting with Jim, but if you do send him my love and buy him a beer on my account!

I thought you were in the US, by the way...

Looking forward to the pictures and the rest of the story,

Bart.
 

tat2Ralfy

Well-Known Member
What a wonderful adventure :thumbup:

I look forward to hearing how you get on

Best regards
Ralfson (Dr)
 

BlueDun

Well-Known Member
Bart,
it didn't work out for a personal meeting with Jim. I'm in Tokyo and he's about 1000km south. Maybe next time, either here, or in Switzerland, or in some other corner of this small world.
And yes, I was in the US, but that was two weeks ago. I didn't find any decent hones there, so went home to Switzerland, made a quick stopover in France (no hones there either) and moved on to Japan. :rolleyes:
If it looks as if I was a bit busy at the moment that's true. But only two more weeks to go and I'll have a break until March. Nothing but Fishing, honing, shaving, skiing, scratching my belly .... smilie_tanz_009.gif

Cheerio all
BlueDun
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
BlueDun said:
Bart,
it didn't work out for a personal meeting with Jim. I'm in Tokyo and he's about 1000km south. Maybe next time, either here, or in Switzerland, or in some other corner of this small world.
And yes, I was in the US, but that was two weeks ago. I didn't find any decent hones there, so went home to Switzerland, made a quick stopover in France (no hones there either) and moved on to Japan. :rolleyes:
If it looks as if I was a bit busy at the moment that's true. But only two more weeks to go and I'll have a break until March. Nothing but Fishing, honing, shaving, skiing, scratching my belly .... smilie_tanz_009.gif

Cheerio all
BlueDun

I've been playing with these foam strops of yours today. I was caught in the act by Wim (Decraew) who unexpectedly showed up at my place to collect a Georgetown pottery scuttle that I no longer have use for... I saw him think "Now that's how you really hone all these razors to shave perfectly". :D That blue stuff works quite well. It smells exactly the same as Peek Polish, which happens to be blue as well.

Hang in there for those remaining 2 weeks. Belly scratching sounds nice for a change. :D

Bart.
 

Woodash

Well-Known Member
BlueDun said:
Bart,
it didn't work out for a personal meeting with Jim. I'm in Tokyo and he's about 1000km south. Maybe next time, either here, or in Switzerland, or in some other corner of this small world.
And yes, I was in the US, but that was two weeks ago. I didn't find any decent hones there, so went home to Switzerland, made a quick stopover in France (no hones there either) and moved on to Japan. :rolleyes:
If it looks as if I was a bit busy at the moment that's true. But only two more weeks to go and I'll have a break until March. Nothing but Fishing, honing, shaving, skiing, scratching my belly .... smilie_tanz_009.gif

Cheerio all
BlueDun
BD - Have you been to the razor shop in Bern? No. 25 Krammgasse, I believe.
 

BlueDun

Well-Known Member
Gents,

I made it back home safely and the daily routine has almost caught me.
The visit in that hone shop was a really awesome experience. I learned only later that the gentleman who took care of me was actually the owner. He easily spent half a day with me, showing me hones and knives and also giving me honing lessons on Jnats. That's what I call pride in what he's doing! Economically, he would have been better off spending that time on serious business - after all, he's a distributer and a big one too. But he somehow felt that I'm sort of crazy too about hones and that's what counted for him. A guy in another forum mentioned that my report made him think of Kill Bill Vol. 1, Chapter4 - Hattori Hanzo. And I have to say that's not too far off :rolleyes:

So after Jim told that gentlemen what I was looking for and I gave him a rough price range he started to seek his shop for appropriate hones. Anyone watched Harry Potter 1? Where Mr. Ollivander is searching around his shop for Harry's magic wand? That's pretty much the scene.
By the way, I did learn something very interesting from Jim about price factors on Jnats. Certainly, the name and origin are one important factor. But much more is the optical appearance of the stone - size, evenness, and pattern. Factors, that actually do not have anything to do with the sharpening performance. If you want a perfectly rectangular hone, big size with no chips and broken edges and maybe some fancy colored inclusion, you pay big time for that. If you can live with a smaller ugly bout you have to drop only a fraction for that - even if that one is ahead in terms of honing characteristics.
Now this guy came back after a while with a handful of hones that had the size of classical japanese barber hones and off we went to the honing bench. I did bring a razor for that. Testing the hones is actually crucial. Jnats vary significantly in their properties and hence their suitability for a specific honing job. Much more than cotis! A hone that by origin and name should serve well as a razor hone can turn out useless for that purpose. The hones this gentlemen picked for testing were of course pre-selcted by him as razor hones. Yet, none of the really satisfied me nor him. They were all ok, but somehow we both felt that there is still room for improvement. After mentally screening his inventory, the gentleman reached in the far corner of one of the many glass display cabinets and pulled another inconspicuous grey bout. And that was a complete different story. I did some passes with my razor and the smoothness compared to the others was just stunning. He also tried it quickly, looked at me and gave me a clear message: Go for it !! And that's what I did.
At that point I had no clue what kind of hones I tested. And that was good. I was just selecting by my feeling, uninfluenced by names. Later on, Jim identified my hone as an Oozuku Asagai of high quality. A more than appropriate choice for razors.
And here he is (btw, Jnats are male, as opposed to cotis ;) ):

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This shot is pretty close to the real color.
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To go with that hone I purchased one Botan Nagura, one Mejiro Nagura, and one Tomonagura of rather big size. In fact, it is big enough to serve as a hone itself.

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And of course I did shoot some fotos while in the shop. But be warned! Watching these is strictly at your own risk!!
http://www.dropbox.com/gallery/12548424/1/Japan?h=bc273e

And, Woodash, I have never been in the Bern shop. But of course I know about it and was in touch before with the owner who is a frequent guest at my
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.

Cheers
BlueDun
 

Woodash

Well-Known Member
BlueDun said:
I did some passes with my razor and the smoothness compared to the others was just stunning. He also tried it quickly, looked at me and gave me a clear message: Go for it !! And that's what I did.

At that point I had no clue what kind of hones I tested. And that was good. I was just selecting by my feeling, uninfluenced by names. Later on, Jim identified my hone as an Oozuku Asagai of high quality. A more than appropriate coice for razors.And, Woodash, I have never been in the Bern shop. But of course I know about it and was in touch before with the owner who is a frequent guest at my
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.
Excellent! Best wishes with it. I encourage you to try everything to find the key. It may respond best in ways that differ slightly from conventional wisdom. You might also consider really learning the hone before you concentrate on the nagura. That's where the pay-off will be.

I have a hone that I also feel the same way about with respect to the smoothness. It (also an Oozuku, btw) is simply remarkable - far better than my two other Jnats. It took me many hours of experimenting before I really started to 'unlock' what this particular hone needs to work best. Once I did, I started getting the most incredible shaves ever. I also have an Oozuku suita coming that has been described as 'one of the hardest stones that [the vendor] has ever seen'. I've had some discussions about that, so I'm optimistic about it - but also a little uncertain....:blink:

Anyway - good luck with your nagura and finisher.

Btw - I had a look at your website. Very cool. Thank gawd for Google translate (you are selling ladies lingerie, right?) :lol:
 

DJKELLY

Well-Known Member
I have spent many years in Japan and love their edged tools and sharpening systems. I would love to get into the Jnats, but am completely daunted by the myriad choices, evidenced by BlueDun's experience. Is there any way I could get a great performing stone the first time. I am definitely not interested in appearances, just honing performance. What and where would be greatly appreciated, Steve. Thanks, Denny
 

BlueDun

Well-Known Member
Denny, after this day in Japan I think that the best way is actually how I was able to do it. Since this is no option for you your second best bet is sticking with the usual suspects ... err... the known hone resellers. Most of them buy at Morihei anyway. I saw a list in the Morihei office with well known names in the straight razor world ;)
Those dealers will at least have a choice of hones that are preselected with respect to their suitability for razors. There is still some Risk asociated with that. The prices are steep and it may well be that one particular hone is just not YOUR hone. I feel that it reallly is somehow like it was for Harry Potter to find his wand. We are all different, and so are the Jnats. Of course, I'm stretching it a bit now. But it's just like squeezing that last little bit out of a coti edge. It gets easier the better you know your hone. Same with Jnats. But I feel that Jnats are more diffucult to master. So you better start off with a hone that suits you right away.

@ Woodash: Please share your experience with your Oozuku with us! I know that my learning curve will take time to reach decent levels. Maybe I can profit from your way of doing it.

Cheers
BluDun
 

danjared

Well-Known Member
I have a Nakayama Maruka which I believe to be an asagi. (I can take pictures tonight.) I'm still learning on it and haven't had much chance to play with it. I'm curious how Oozuku asagi compare.

I most recently used it a few days ago. When honing, it felt like I was hitting something on the hone. Yet, upon inspection with a microscope, the edge was flawless (and the subsequent shave was very good). I figured maybe there was a scratch on the hone's surface that was playing with me.
 

Woodash

Well-Known Member
DJKELLY said:
I have spent many years in Japan and love their edged tools and sharpening systems. I would love to get into the Jnats, but am completely daunted by the myriad choices, evidenced by BlueDun's experience. Is there any way I could get a great performing stone the first time. I am definitely not interested in appearances, just honing performance. What and where would be greatly appreciated, Steve. Thanks, Denny
PM forthcoming, Denny.
 

Woodash

Well-Known Member
BlueDun said:
@ Woodash: Please share your experience with your Oozuku with us! I know that my learning curve will take time to reach decent levels. Maybe I can profit from your way of doing it.
BD - I would definately start with JimR's discussion linked here (Sharpening Academy, I think). He sets the standard for all this. I think he tends to go through several cycles of refreshing slurry and then ultimately finishes on a more pasty slurry. Some folks just use water on hone for the whole thing. I use slurries, but I usually don't let them go to paste on this particular stone. I finish on very dilute slurry with very minimal use of clean water and a very light tough. But that's just this one stone.

Let us know how you make out with it.
 

Hendrik

Member
Hi BlueDun,

Thanks for sharing your great Japanese journey.
In all honesty, I am very very jealous :rolleyes:

I went to Japan years ago, back in the days when I had no idea of any other shaving means than the cartridges that everybody uses.
Needless to say that if I had taken up this hobby earlier, I would have digged the Japanese mountains myself (luckily I live in Belgium, where I have been spotted by some fellow Coticulers digging the local Coticule hills :lol: ).

What I did bring with me after my visit, was a passion for the Japanese culture. In fact one day I would like to pick up Bonsai-cultivation, but watering, feeding and caring for my kids Today represents enough of a challenge.

Another area Japan has a great tradition in is of course related to the Samurai and their weapon of choice. And of course all aspects related to this including sharpening.
As witnessed first-hand by BlueDun, Japanese have developed a seaming endless clasification of their stones. Based on their properties but also on their appearance, which makes finding your way into this miriade of choice almost impossible. At least to me.

In search for a Japanese stone I have read numerous internet sources and have looked at many many webshops. Some of them in Japanese only trough the use of an online translator.
A couple of weeks ago my search ended here:
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, where I ordered an Oozuko as well as a Shoubudani.

Of course I did not need a Japanese stone, let alone two, but after reading so much about them I am just too tempted to learn to use these stones myself.

In case a fellow Coticuler would find himself in this same situation ;) , I can wholehartedly recommend to take a look at the website mentionned above. This because comparing many many sources has led me to the conclusion that the applied prices are very reasonable, even on the low side of the spectrum. But even more so, since the seller is very knowledgeable and takes pride in testing all the stones for sale himself. Another non-neglectable advantage for European sellers is that the stones are shipped from within Europe, avoiding all VAT and customs hassle and extra charges.
While it certainly is not equivalent to a visit to Japan, I was so well served that I wanted to share my experience here.

For clarity, I have no affilitation whatsoever with the seller.
 

BlueDun

Well-Known Member
Hendrik,

good to hear from you and thanks for your comments.

I also was and still am very fascinated by the Japanese Bladesmith tradition. I've been a knife-nut for a long time and that's how I eventually ended up with straight razors. Being infected with that specific strain of steel fascination virus it was only logical that I'd get into Japanese knives, blades, and all that goes with it.
My first visit to Japan was about two years ago. I went to Seki which is one of the knife making capitals in Japan and I dropped a considerable amount of money in kitchen knives. I even visited the Feather HQ which also is in Seki. By that time I still shaved with my Gilette so I only visited their museum. That by the way is awsome! Highly recommended.

Thanks for you link to japanesenaturalstones.com. I know the place. I have never ordered anything there but a few people on gut-rasiert.de did so and their feedback is very positive. As mentioned, since Jnats vary so much it is important to have someone knowledgeable to filter out the suitable rocks for you. As far as I've heard the guy who runs that place is more than capable of doing so - and even better: apparently he's doing it with a similar enthusiasm that most of us share.
Keep us please posted on your experience and progress with your two rocks.

Cheers
BlueDun
 

Woodash

Well-Known Member
^ and ^^

I have 2 Oozuku from Maxim (JNS) and they are outstanding. The most recent is a suita that is so hard and extremely fine, it's like honing on glass with cutting ability (takes 200+ laps just to get even a faint slurry...but that's all you need...). I think I wound up with some incredibly good hones. Maxim is also a great guy to deal with. And yes - he is very interested and helpful in getting you the right stone. Just a plug....
 

DJKELLY

Well-Known Member
Woodash said:
^ and ^^

I have 2 Oozuku from Maxim (JNS) and they are outstanding. The most recent is a suita that is so hard and extremely fine, it's like honing on glass with cutting ability (takes 200+ laps just to get even a faint slurry...but that's all you need...). I think I wound up with some incredibly good hones. Maxim is also a great guy to deal with. And yes - he is very interested and helpful in getting you the right stone. Just a plug....
Yes, Steve, I will second your post, and thanks for steering me to Maxim (Maksim). He was most helpful and says he is sending me a stone and naguras that closely match your last purchase. From what you have said, I think I might have been better off with one like your first hone if it performs consistently. I have a Charnley Forrest that puts too keen an edge on the razor and as Ralfy experienced, it is a little crispy for daily use. I hope the super hard one you just got is not the same as the CF. Maybe, if it is, I can find a way to back it down a little. YP, Denny
 

Woodash

Well-Known Member
DJKELLY said:
Yes, Steve, I will second your post, and thanks for steering me to Maxim (Maksim). He was most helpful and says he is sending me a stone and naguras that closely match your last purchase. From what you have said, I think I might have been better off with one like your first hone if it performs consistently. I have a Charnley Forrest that puts too keen an edge on the razor and as Ralfy experienced, it is a little crispy for daily use. I hope the super hard one you just got is not the same as the CF. Maybe, if it is, I can find a way to back it down a little. YP, Denny
So, you got 2 hones? (only 39 more and you're good to go!!:lol:. Boy, it's hard to let go of this joke...). You're better off with one like the first one I got, IMO. The second one is more tricky, but you can dial it in depending on how you work the slurry. I just shaved with a razor honed on the 2nd. Great! You're good in either case, but I do think one like my first would probably be better to start out. Let me know how it works out.
 
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